When you think about the Consumer Electronic Show you don't normally think about sex. You think about gadgets: Big TV’s with impossibly glossy screens, 3D systems that make you slightly nauseous, maybe a bunch of robots and fitness devices. Sex, well…
It might not be the first thing on most people’s mind, but that’s because most people don’t get to see CES up close. The annual Las Vegas consumer electronic show, which boasts over 150,000 attendees, is only open only to press and trade. Its a mecca for innovation, tech and boobs. Yup, boobs.
Year after year manufacturers have tried to lead people to their booths by hiring honeys who waggle their lady-bits at them in an attempt to get foot traffic. It’s almost funny, if it wasn’t quite so pathetic to watch middle aged balding men salivate over bikini clad women, and if it didn't make some of the other women on the floor, those who are reporters and serious about their work, feel a little uncomfortable.
Last year CES received a number of complaints about the booth babes. Letters were written. Angry blogs conveyed unhappiness at the trend. Heck, the BBC even did a segment on it. There was a Change.org petition made which got 369 signatures.
In response CES changed its policy, encouraging exhibitors to “have appropriate presenter attire- and if objectionable they can be removed from the floor.”
It’s expensive to showcase at CES, so it would make sense for the companies to pay attention. But would they? And what would CES do about it?
Helena Stone, editor of ChipChick, a consumer electronic website targeted at tech-savvy women, is glad that there was a crackdown on the booth babes.
CES 2014 Ricoh Booth Babe
“In CES 2013 there was a booth that had women with only body paint on,” she said. “It was for shock value, as companies want to attract people to booths.” Stone has been working in the industry for nine years and has noticed many changes. “When I started coming here, there were hardly any female tech reporters, she said. “Now you have more, but I’d guestimate it’s around ten percent, not a huge number at all.”
The booth babes don’t upset Miss Stone, but they do create an atmosphere which isn’t highly conducive for women. Which isn’t smart for the exhibitors in the long run.
A Media Post report showed that women currently spending around 7 trillion dollars a year. They also account for 85% of all consumer purchases and account for 68% of new car purchases, which are pretty big ticket items. Taking this into account, the exhibitors should be courting the female reporter, or they will be are marketing to the wrong people. But the majority of the conference is attended by men, who are still the ones making the executive buying decisions, hence, the booth babes.
CES 2014 Booth Babe
Nicole Scott, reporter for Mobile Geeks, isn’t concerned. . “They don’t offend me at all. I’ve seen much worse abroad, booth babes who are completely topless for example. I think I’m just desensitized.”
“If you’re a company and you’re paying for an expensive booth at the electronic show, your technology should be watch draws people in,” said Stone. “There’s so much cool stuff there, that should be enough for anyone, I don’t know why they ever needed booth babes.”
It seems that booth babes aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Walking the convention floor we spotted many in tight shorts and high heels, though there were fewer than previous years. Companies clearly got scared, but as we saw many mini-skirted models walking around with no consequences, it’s highly possible that next year the brands will be back in force with booth babes once more. Or not - it’s also possible they’ll have decided they don’t need them after all.
Ingrid Rojas is a Colombian multimedia producer based in Miami. She spends her days either shooting, producing or editing all kinds of video content.